Beans, beans are good for your heart…………fill in the rest!

You may have heard the following rhyme,

Beans, beans are good for your heart – well so far this is true they are full of soluble fibre, soluble fibre reduces cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of blood clots preventing heart attacks and strokes.

The more you eat the more you f****, again some real truth here.

The more you f*** the better you feel, well no actually, beans and pulses are known for causing intestinal gas and this can cause havoc with people who have IBS, increasing the level of pain felt and generally making life really miserable. Beans and lentils (pulses) contain a type of carbohydrate called raffinose, this is indigestible by everyone, but with people who have IBS the bloating that results stretches the bowel wall and causes pain. I don’t really need to explain f*** do I? I’m much too polite, I’m afraid.

So let’s have beans for every meal – erm, again possibly not, if you are prone to bloating and pain after eating them.


You should only exclude foods that are actually causing problems, variety in your diet is very important. Good sources of protein for vegetarians are quinoa and quorn and iron can be found in dark green leafy vegetables – ensure you have a SMALL glass of fresh orange to aid the absorption into your body, only if you are not intolerant of fructose. Ask to see a dietitian if you require more personal dietary advice here.

Is there anything I can do to make this food a little more tolerable?

Well possibly.

When buying dried pulses (lentils and beans) please ensure you use them up quickly – leaving them in your cupboard for more than a year really doesn’t help, the longer they are stored the tougher they become. They then require more soaking and boiling to make them more digestible. Ensure the surface is without shriveled skin and the colour is bright. Store your dried beans in a sealed container in a cool dark place.

Soaking is then required, don’t add anything to the beans but water and change this a few times during the soaking process, if you can. Don’t be tempted to add salt or sodium bicarbonate to the beans, salt will inhibit the soaking process. You will need to soak the beans at least eight hours or preferably overnight and rinse the beans after soaking prior to cooking.

Cooking times vary depending on the age and water hardness, again before adding the beans to another dish don’t be tempted to use the water for stock as this does contain more raffinose. See the link at the bottom of the page for a useful information leaflet from Pulse Canada on cooking times for beans. Don’t add acidic foods to the beans whilst cooking such as tomato, vinegar or lemon juice as this makes the cooking process longer.

Tinned beans need to be rinsed before use, again don’t be tempted to use the liquor to add to other dishes – the beans have been cooked in the tin and not given the same treatment. Some of the cheaper tinned versions can be a little tough, necessitating longer cooking time to avoid excessive wind – buying cheaper versions may be false economy if you need to cook them for longer!

A word of warning about kidney beans, cannellini beans and broad beans, they all contain phytohaemagglutanin a protein that if consumed in large amounts is a toxin, it is found in large amounts in kidney beans. It is denatured by correct cooking. Tinned kidney beans are better to avoid the risks, but do rinse them well before using them!

Some information was found about adding a piece of seaweed (Kombu) to the beans during cooking to aid with reducing raffinose content of beans, lots of un-referenced information on the web. Kombu was suggested to contain alpha galactosidase an enzyme that digests raffinose. I have, despite a good hunt on the internet and research sites, been unable to find the source of this information, so I am actually unsure if this does work – any help here from food technologists would be gratefully received! Please reply!

Make your own baked beans!!

Gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian.

500g dried haricot beans

20 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 medium potatoes

400 ml passata

salt (not too much!)

Soak the beans for at least 16 hours with water, change water at least four times.

Peel potatoes and boil till soft, mash.

Cook the beans for 30-40 minutes or until soft in fresh water, then drain.

Add the potato to the beans and the passata, fresh chopped thyme and a small amount of salt. Cook for ten minutes – eat & enjoy!

See link for lots of useful info on pulses!

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I am a state registered dietitian. My speciality is dietary treatment of gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease, lactose & fructose malabsorption and multiple food intolerances. I have had lots of experience in other areas of dietetics and I wished to start this blog to spread the word about evidence based dietary treatments and dispel much of the quackery that is common with these diseases. All information on this site is of a general nature and is based on UK based treatments and guidelines. Please see your healthcare practitioner should you need more country specific information.

4 thoughts on “Beans, beans are good for your heart…………fill in the rest!

  1. I can’t find a single source online providing that kombu contains alpha-galactosidase.i need to assume kombu does NOT contain alpha-galactosidase.

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